The nature of Christ has been debated in the Christian Church since its inception. How human or divine Jesus is and how these crucial elements were manifest in Jesus’ life have also been discussed from the beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The incarnation—how God became flesh in Jesus Christ—is an eternal mystery and I claim no new insight. The Church’s Fundamental Belief 4 entitled “The Son” and quoted Bible texts give the basics of this teaching.
Jesus is fully God and fully human. He is unique. However, how we perceive Jesus affects how we view salvation and how we live out our beliefs. And while we cannot fully understand Jesus, we do know that He demonstrated to us how to minister to humanity and that He did it in a way that we can follow—as a human.
Jesus is God (John 5:17,18, 8:58, 10:30,33; Colossians 2:9). The Gospels are very clear that Jesus’ authoritative teaching and miracles were from God, not from Himself (John 5:19,20, 7:16, 14:10,11, 17:7,8). Jesus’ miracles provided evidence He was the Messiah from God (Matthew 11:4,5; Luke 4:18,19, 5:24; John 10:38). The apostles did similar miracles to Jesus and they did not claim to be God, but rather disciples of Jesus (John 15:5; Acts 4:7-10,30). [pullquote]
Jesus did not use His prerogative of godly power during His ministry on earth. This is what Philippians 2:5-11 suggests: “. . . who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness and being found in human form” (verses 6,7 NRSV). Jesus’ form or nature or substance was God in verse 6. His form or nature or substance was human in verse 7. He is both fully God and fully human—indeed, unique. However, Jesus “emptied Himself” of divinity while on Earth. Perhaps Jesus’ divinity was unveiled briefly at the transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8). Jesus lived life like the original first man, Adam (Romans 5:12-21). He was the ideal human that Adam was not (and we are not). Jesus did not use His deity to live out His humanity. Jesus was fully dependent, fully obedient and fully reliant on God His Father in all that He did as a human.
So how did Jesus do the extraordinary as a human? Firstly, He was anointed (Luke 4:16,18), filled (John 3:34), sealed (John 6:27) and led (Luke 4:1) by the Holy Spirit. Secondly, He was continually connected with God through prayer (Luke 3:21,22, 5:16, 22:32,41,42). Thirdly, He knew the Scriptures well—quoting and applying them to life continually (Mark 14:27; Luke 22:37, 24:27,44). This close connection with God was Jesus’ source of power as a human being.
We, as followers of Jesus, have access to the same God in the same way. We can be filled with the Spirit (Romans 8:11), connected with God in prayer (Philippians 4:6,7) and know the power of the Scriptures (1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12).
Five times in Jesus’ last words before His crucifixion He said something like this: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything I will do it” (John 14:13,14, NRSV. See also John 15:7,16, 16:23,24,26,27). Just before, Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12, NRSV).
Jesus’ dream is that we do greater things than He did. If that is the case, we need to live and minister like Jesus. As God, Jesus gave up more than we will ever do—to become one of us (John 1:1-3,14). In following Jesus, we will come close to people—all races, socio-economic groups, ages, genders and cultures. We will live with others and try to connect with them. My usefulness is limited when I don’t believe we today can do greater things than Jesus. We grossly underestimate what God can do for us, with us and through us. Jesus built a movement that turned the world upside down in a generation (Acts 4:13). We can do the same as we surrender to Jesus, come close to God and other people, and become disciple-making disciples.